August 11, 2012 3:52:50 PM
The heart is an abiding organ. It can expand to hold love in all forms. It can endure bruises and damage. It can crackle like shattered glass and keep beating in the human chest. This column is dedicated to anyone who has ever loved an animal and who has lost one so deeply loved.
My daughter/dog, Cordelia, died last Sunday. She had not been sick. I truly believe that it was too soon for her to go. A sudden virus traveled from somewhere inside of her, into her brain. She was gone in about 14 hours. A million thanks to Dr. Anderson at the Animal Medical Clinic, who spent many hours, on his day off, trying to save her.
We buried her in our backyard, with some treats, a rubber ball and a small guest towel soaked in her mother's tears. I suppose she carried them with her across the rainbow bridge.
Cordelia was my shadow, my protector, my child. She was a companion who stayed by my side as I recovered from cancer. And she was smart, as well. There were actually some words that we had to spell in front of her.
Chris and I made a harrowing trip, with Hurricane Katrina so close behind us, with two cats, Gris-Gris and Loa, and Cordelia in our car. They were all so very good, as if they knew this was serious and we were fighting to save them. They were the reason that we ended up in Columbus, because a dorm at Mississippi University for Women was being used as a shelter -- and was accepting pets.
I remember when we went to the New Orleans SPCA to find a dog. We looked at several, walking them around a small courtyard to get acquainted. The others were only interested in each other. But Cordelia put her paws on our laps and looked so intently at us. We knew she was saying, "Please, get me out of here!" She was ours at that moment.
I named her "Cordelia," and wanted to call her "Coco" for short (like Coco Chanel). But "Coco" never stuck. Her daddy dubbed her "Pooperdoodle," a nickname she loved. Cordelia Pooperdoodle Dog Elliott-Hannon was a black and white terrier of unknown heritage. I told my husband that every spot was a place where an angel had kissed her. She had many, many spots.
When we began rebuilding our lives in Columbus, I bought a huge chaise lounge so there would be plenty of room for her to cuddle by my side. You may think that only a crazy person chooses their home's décor for the comfort of a pet. Perhaps, but we spent many happy hours there, napping and watching television. We were together in that chair when she became so suddenly sick.
This has been a terrible week for me. For those who have seen me cry in public, I sincerely apologize. I believe in heaven. And I absolutely believe that all our "children" will be there to greet us. Eventually, I will find comfort in that, but not right now.
People often meet me and say, "I know you. You are a writer." This embarrasses me, because I consider myself a dilettante, just pretending to be a writer. My friend J. D. says, "A writer writes." I only write this column, barely making my weekly deadline. I do not write ever, otherwise.
There is a belief that every soul comes into our life to teach us a lesson. Somehow, the loss of Cordelia sent me to the computer to tell you about her, how wonderful she was, how very special. Perhaps that is her gift, the lesson she leaves me with -- that I am a real writer. I am not quite ready for that lesson. Right now, I am crying on the keyboard, and wondering why my crushed and bloody heart continues to beat, and if it will ever heal.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. Email reaches her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.